In more than 120 countries, people seeking an abortion risk facing prison time, according to a new review published Monday.
BMJ Global Health, a peer-reviewed journal, conducted the study, which they called a “comprehensive global analysis” of the criminalization of abortion.
The study found that more than 90 countries have maximum sentences of five years in prison for abortion applicants, while 25 have sentences of between five and 10 years. In six countries, people who seek an abortion can even face life in prison. This list includes Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica.
The analysis also noted that while most countries allow some form of abortion, 11 countries have banned it entirely: Andorra, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Madagascar, Malta, Nicaragua, Palau, the Philippines, and Surinam.
The research was based on detailed abortion policies compiled by the World Health Organization, whose guidelines call for the decriminalization of abortion and the removal of barriers to obtaining safe abortions around the world.
“When (abortion) is regulated through criminal law, there are consequences, which can include aggravating the stigma associated with seeking or providing abortion services, creating a chilling effect,” said co-author Antonella Lavelanet, who She is a Medical Officer in the WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health Research and Services.
The WHO database used in the study does not follow a uniform definition of abortion, but the practice is generally considered to be the termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability, which occurs at around 24 weeks.
The analysis consisted of 182 countries and their policies as of October 2022.
However, the United States was omitted from the study because the law differs from state to state since the constitutional right to abortion was struck down by the Supreme Court last June. Some US states, including Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia, impose prison time for those who perform illegal abortions, according to FindLaw.com.